Monday, January 31, 2011

Want People to Stop Driving? Cut Down on Parking Spaces.

A new study confirms something I've believed for quite a while: the more difficult parking becomes, the less people will drive.

The study mostly focused on European cities because ... well, here in America not having parking is considered heretical.

I've written before about how when I lived in LA, I used to consistently drive places an easy walking distance from my apartment simply because I could. There was always ample parking. It was faster to drive and more convenient, so why walk to the sandwich shop a couple blocks away or the pizza place or the laundromat? Why walk to the grocery store, even if I am only picking up a couple things? I have a car and it has a huge parking lot.

On the other hand if parking had been scarce or expensive? You bet I would have walked.

Cheap and easy parking changes the calculus we make when we are deciding whether to drive or to walk or to take public transportation. For example, right now I take public transit to work every day. Public transit is almost as fast and it's relaxing. I'd much prefer to read a book on the subway than fight traffic.

Public transit is also cheaper. But it's ONLY cheaper when I factor in the cost of parking all day in a garage. Without that cost, even with the sky-high price of gas, it would probably be cheaper for me to drive. (Factoring in the cost of wear and tear on my car might change the calculation, but let's face it: most people don't factor wear and tear in when they're making these back-of-the-envelope calculations.)

When you make parking scarce and expensive, you start to then build your city for walkers and bikers and public transit. Without massive parking lots everywhere, your city may have more room for parks and gardens and playgrounds.

We don't have to make parking cheap and easy. No one really wants to pave paradise to put up a parking lot.

So let's not.

6 comments:

Eco Yogini said...

yep, I agree 100%, and am so glad that there is actual evidence to support it now!

however, i hurt my toe pretty badly yesterday, which meant that walking to the ferry was out... and i had to drive to work. boo. (even though parking is free at work).
gave me a bit of a moment- what with public transit being so terrible here (buses, not the ferry), i can't imagine having to walk if it was painful....

Simply Green said...

I would like to say I'm surprised, but I'm not. Inconvenience people, and they will find a way around it. Nice to see there's proof though! Now if only they would put it into action! :)

Rosa said...

I have been thinking about this lately - we have a one-side parking ban because there's so much snow, it takes up as much space in the street as parking a car. So the first month or two people bitched and moaned and acted like they were going to die over it.

And then...everyone figured out their parking (it was a really big deal for folks who have to park on-street, for real) and stopped talking about it. It is what it is. A few people we know decided they didn't need a car that bad and parked their cars with friends out in the 'burbs for the duration.

Just like switching from car to bike for commuting, it's not doing it every day that's hard - it's the transitions. What you do every day is just what you do every day.

I would support a year-round one-side-parking ban, to make the streets safer for walkers and bikers year-round and also to make planning easier for car owners.

Scott said...

Not sure if you're into him already, but Matt Yglesias at thinkprogress.org is big into parking issues (primarily in D.C., but I think the ideas at work apply to most cities). http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2010/09/subsidized-parking-is-not-an-environmental-service/

EcoGeoFemme said...

This is SO true. I walk or take public to all sorts of places because parking is such an issue.

Mary @ Green Global Travel said...

I think this is a really interesting idea! Having ample parking be available enables individuals to pollute the air by driving everywhere. By decreasing this parking space, it would most definitely impact those who always opted to drive everywhere.